Tonkatsu! (No sauce)
Despite my love for Japan, and many years of study (so many kanji and "未来の夢"の作文!), I very rarely cook Japanese food myself. I used to make oyako-don and sukiyaki occasionally, but that was B.B. (Before Blog), if you can imagine such a time. However, since my bro and his girlfriend Su came back from a holiday to Japan, they have been cooking it quite a bit. Cold soba noodles, full Japanese breakfasts, that sort of thing. Even natto (blergh). Inspired, I decided to make a Japanese-style lunch when we had our friends over last weekend.
A Japanese-Style Lunch for 8
Zaru Soba / ざるそば
Gyoza / 餃子
Tonkatsu with Cabbage and Rice / トンカツ、キャベツサラダ、ご飯
Taiyaki / たい焼
The preparation involved a pretty expensive shop at Fuji-mart, and 2 un-stressful hours before the lunch. In the morning, I cooked and chilled the soba, sliced the cabbage, made the dough/custard for the taiyaki and crumbed the pork (see previous post). Susu came over an hour in advance to assemble her gyoza, and our friends arrived right on time. (With a slab of Sapporo - thank-you to Justin & Megan!)
A very crowded table
We started off eating the soba and gyoza. We had the noodles with soba sauce (bottled) and finely chopped spring onions. Normally you'd have wasabi too, but we'd run out, so people started dipping into the super-hot mustard I'd made for the tonkatsu to get that wasabi-like hit. I love zaru-soba; it is so delicious and refreshing.
Clockwise from front: spring onions, gyoza dipping sauce, mustard sauce for tonkatsu
After that, I got up and started a-frying!
The meat is pork loin. Sometimes it's sold as "butterfly pork", and if so you'll need to cut it down the middle to get single pieces.
Whilst I love, love, love deep-fried food (tonkatsu, tempura, even KFC), I rarely deep-fry at home. Obvious health reasons aside, deep-frying is a total pain in the A**. The painful splatters, the huge amount of oil you have to dispose of, the fact that your hair will stink for days afterwards.
There is a wonderful moment when all the meat is fried, and you can turn off the gas and the noisy kitchen exhaust and just appreciate the gorgeousness of the crunchy fried golden-brown goodness.
Letting the pork sit on a rack stops it from going soggy, and gives you maximum crunch. Unfortunately I didn't have those funky individual little grills that you get in restaurants in Japan, so made do with a baking tray and cooling rack.
I sliced each crunchy little piece of pork into strips, and brought the whole lot to the table, so each guest could take a re-assembled chop. Sandra & Su took care of rice-scooping duties. And then it was tonkatsu time!
Tonkatsu, tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog brand, from a bottle), cabbage salad, rice, and mustard sauce.
The only sauce that didn't come out of a bottle (don't judge me, it's the way Japanese housewives do it! :P) was the hot mustard sauce. I seem to remember always having a super-hot mustard sauce with tonkatsu, but couldn't find a recipe for it anywhere. I improvised, mixing together English mustard with finely grated ginger and soy sauce. (Similar to the dipping sauce Nigella suggests to go with her salmon with shitake mushrooms and greens from Nigella Bites). It worked a treat!
The sesame dressing was really delicious, and was very well received by my friend George, who ate more cabbage than the rest of us put together! Mmm.. cabbage.
Sesame dressing. It's hyaku-paasento kin no goma da yo!
After we recovered a bit, it was time for taiyaki. I'd planned on making just redbean and custard, but then got requests for apple, nutella, kaya...
It was so much fun, making the taiyaki and giving them out straight from the pan! (Watch out, that kaya gets SCALDING hot!) Best investment ever.